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GiveCentral's 2016 Insights on Nonprofit Giving report uncovers Americans’ charitable giving habits.
GiveCentral's latest survey report: 2016 Insights on Nonprofit Giving

New Study Reveals Insights on Donor Giving Habits

Get The Survey ReportKnowing your audience is critically important. Understanding their habits, interests, what motivates them and their charitable preferences are important pillars of your fundraising strategy. Knowing how, when, where and why donors give are key building blocks and questions you need to be able answer to successfully raise money for your organization.That’s why GiveCentral launched a benchmark national study to uncover and track Americans’ charitable giving habits. GiveCentral’s 2016 Insights on Nonprofit Giving report reveals key insights and motivators behind the more than $358 billion American’s give to charity annually.* Here are some highlights from the benchmark study:

Digital Dollars

One out of three Americans indicated a preference for online giving. What’s more, of those respondents, 34 percent said they are likely to donate MORE when using electronic payment methods.

Tech Age of Giving

Forty-three percent of Americans have used a computer, smartphone or tablet to make a donation.

More Dollars Digitally

When asked the dollar amount of their most recent contribution, those who prefer to donate online gave an average of $115 versus an average donation of $82 for those who prefer cash or check. Similarly, those donors who prefer online giving gave an average of $781 annually compared to a $559 average for those who prefer cash or check.

Motivating Factors

Approximately 30 percent of Americans donate for religious reasons. Other motivating factors include: To help people in need (58 percent), feel fortunate and want to give back (39 percent).

Time Out

Evenings (36 percent) and weekends (26 percent) are the most likely time in which donations are made. For 18 percent of survey respondents, early morning is the ideal time.

Moving Story

Storytelling is an art, and an a must-have part of fundraising. That’s because nearly 20 percent of survey respondents said they were emotionally moved to donate by someone’s story. Get your copy of the full report here:Get The Survey ReportGiveCentral’s 2016 Insights on Nonprofit Giving report reveals other interesting and actionable findings along with recommendations how you can put them into action to benefit your fundraising efforts.

*Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014


What Does Your Groundhog Predict?

I for one am thrilled that Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this morning… bring on spring! This annual ritual, where a groundhog predicts the arrival of spring, offers some interesting lessons:

  • Been there, done that. Do you sometimes feel like you’re stuck in Groundhog Day like Bill Murray was in the famous movie of the same title? If you are looking to change an outcome to a problem, you have to do something different or try something new. Small changes can lead to big dividends.
  • Avoid the communications rut. No doubt that communicating with your donor base is crucial.  But, just as important is ensuring your messages don’t get stuck in a rut and come off rote or insincere. When communicating with your donors be authentic and ensure you personalize them as much as possible!
  • Facts, not folklore.  While the tradition of this famous Phil predicting the weather is cute, it isn’t based on fact. Far from it! Punxsutawney Phil has been wrong nearly 40% of the time according to records.  Building a strategic plan grounded in fact is a must.  

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing findings from a new, benchmark national study we conducted to uncover donor giving habits and preferences. The discoveries from the GiveCentral Insights on American Giving Report are sure to positively impact your strategic plan.

What other Groundhog Day lessons have you learned? We’d love to hear what you do to keep your forecast positive. Be sure to be on the lookout for the release of our donor insights report next week!

giving to the church

January is Nearly Gone…But Not Forgotten

Can it possibly be the last week in January already?   Did you ever wonder where the month of January got its name?  It’s named in honor of the Roman god Janus:  the god of beginnings and transitions, the guardian of doors and gates. Quite fitting for the first month of the year.

Janus is usually depicted having two heads facing opposite directions.  One looks back and the other looks forward.  As we prepare to “close the gates” on January and step boldly into February, perhaps we can take some of the words most often associated with Janus and apply them to your mission:


Do you offer your donors multiple “gateways” to giving?  Are you meeting them everywhere they are – online, on their phone, at home, in person – so you intersect with their lives when they are ready to give?  To make the most of giving, you have to offer a plethora of ways to give. Provide options and see what door donors choose.   


Before month’s end, why not make a commitment to embark on something new that will enhance your mission.  Look back on something you recently completed and brainstorm ways you can improve it in the future. There’s always a way to put a new spin on something and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the impact a fresh twist can have!

Put your Best Face Forward

Make sure you are clearly communicating your vision and how donor support brings your mission to life.  But it’s more than just words.  Strong visual imagery must be a component of your communications.  Put a face to the story for a stronger emotional link.

As I think about what the Roman god Janus symbolizes, I can’t help but draw a link between Janus and the role of a development director and/or and business manager at many non-profit organizations. In this role, these dedicated professionals are truly the gatekeepers to the success of the organization’s mission.  

But, they can only be as good as the tools they have to support their function.  Does your organization have a state-of-the-art donor management system in place to help power your mission?  One that provides up-to-date metrics for administrators while simultaneously offering donors a simple and intuitive way to support your organization?  

If not, it’s time to think about transitioning to a new system so you can reap the many benefits.  Let GiveCentral show you how we can help you keep moving forward.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Words to Live By: Inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the nation celebrates the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and honors the accomplishments of this visionary leader, I am struck by what are arguably his four most famous words: – “I HAVE A DREAM” – and how that applies to every organization. Your mission is the vision – or dream – for your organization. It’s the driving force behind what you do and the reason your donors support you. Take a page from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and ensure you are effectively communicating your mission. Communication is as much art as it is science, which is why you should have a strategic communications plan in place. It will serve as a road map for what you are communicating, when, why and to whom. While you are bound to have detours, both expected and unexpected, having a plan helps you to stay on course as you build and strengthen relationships with your donors. There is an art to storytelling, so when developing your communications, keep in mind these three essentials C’s of content:


Paint a picture that grabs the reader’s attention, interest and even heartstrings. Not dull and uninspired.


Clarity is key. Use small words, short sentences, short paragraphs. Make sure readers know what you are saying or asking.


People are time-starved. Tell your story in the fewest possible words. No rambling. No redundancy.Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of history’s best communicators. Today, as we remember his legacy and hear recordings of some of his most famous speeches, listen with a communicator’s ear. How did he use words to inspire and persuade people to join the civil rights movement? What role did communications play in helping him achieve his dream? What can you learn from him and apply to your communications efforts so you can continue to advance your mission?

Let GiveCentral help you achieve financial fitness!

Financial Fitness: Tips to Keep your Fundraising in Good Shape

Strengthen your financial fitness

Seems like everyone is on a fitness plan these days, myself included. Which got me thinking… applying the same principle to work life makes a lot of sense. So this year, put a twist on an old new year’s resolution standby – to get in shape – and apply it to your nonprofit. Get your fundraising in shape by creating a health and wellness plan for your organization’s fundraising efforts. Here are some expert tips to get you started:

Related Topic: Facebook for Non-Profits: 10 tips for fundraising success

Bulk up your database.  

The path to long-term vitality is cultivating and growing your donor database.  Simply put, donors are the lifeline of your organization. That’s why it’s critical to have a donor (customer) relationship management system (CRM) in place. The world’s most successful companies wouldn’t dream of operating without a CRM system, and you shouldn’t either.And while growing your mailing list and donor database may seem intimidating, it may be easier than you think. You can ask your volunteer leaders to share the email addresses of their group members, or ask current members to invite a friend or three who might be interested in learning more about your mission.


The key to success for any exercise is repetition and the same goes for your donors.  Do you have a way for your donors to easily make recurring donations? 

Flex your fundraising muscle.

Offering your donors flexibility is key. Anytime, anywhere they are ready to give, make it easy for them! Make sure to provide donors options so they can donate on their terms, not yours. 

Stay Active.

It’s no secret regular communication is an important driver of donation growth.  Keep your organization top of mind through consistent, compelling communications.  Make your first message of 2016 a big “Thank You!” Include a positive story about the great ways your donors have positively impacted the community by supporting your mission.

We can help you put these proven tips (and lots more) into action. Think of GiveCentral as your fitness trainer, a partner dedicated to keeping your fundraising in great shape!

increase fundraising

Make a Resolution for Your Best Fundraising Year Ever

The new year is upon us, and we’re all ready for a fresh start. How’s your plan for 2016? Now’s the time to make a resolution to have your best fundraising year ever.We’ve prepared a quick, 10-step checklist to help you make sure you’ve got the pieces in place for a fantastic year of giving in 2016.

1. Our donate button is easy to find on our website.

a screen shot of St. Margaret Mary's home page featuring Christmas messaging and a donation button
In December, St. Margaret Mary Church was ready for Christmas giving, with a DONATE NOW button right near the top of the page and a slider highlighting their Christmas events.

2. We have included recurring giving options on most, if not all, of our online giving events.

screen shot of a giving page with Annual giving selected
The Church of Holy Apostles lets you set up your Christmas gift for multiple years at once. You can do this for any holiday or annual event!

3. Our email messages have catchy subject lines that invite donors to open them.

screen shot of a Google inbox with messages from St. Josaphat Church
St. Josaphat keeps things interesting by varying email subject lines for special events while maintaining their regular newsletter.

4. Our outreach is focused on our donors, not us.

an older couple in warm clothes, turned around with one arm over the back of a bench
These are the folks you want to impress. Not your board, not your boss… focus on the DONORS.

5. We include a compelling image in each message.

screen shot of the Office for Peace and Justice home page with an image of a refugee child
The Office for Peace and Justice illustrates their need with one strong image to indicate what your donation will support.

6. Our emails tell a story, but are short enough to be reasonably read on a smartphone.

closeup of a man's hand holding a mobile phone
People are busy! Make a resolution to make your emails easy to read on the go.

7. We are utilizing our social media channels daily to bolster our message of giving.

a screen shot of St. John Berchmans Twitter account
Interspersing charitable and mission-based messages, St. John Berchmans led into the Christmas season with something for everyone.

8. We have planned a day-before giving message with a sense of urgency and a clear call to action.

a calendar with Christmas Day circled in pencil
Your target is that one special event on a particular day, but your plan starts now.

9. We have a plan in place to thank our donors, and to follow up with them to share the results of their gifts.

a fountain pen next to the words "Thank you" written in script
Thank you notes were important at Christmas, certainly, but make a resolution to follow up again throughout the new year.

10. We have started a fundraising plan for 2016!

hands writing in a date-planner book
A resolution of better planning will ensure an even better fiscal year. Start with an outline and build from there.
fundraising plan

Why Your Fundraising Plan is Critical in 2016

As the development director at a “small but mighty” nonprofit, Heather Yandow was interested in data to back up her fundraising plan.But while she was looking at reports and surveys to compare her organization to, she realized that the data from many reports like GivingUSA just surveyed the big guys… where the smallest organization they surveyed had a budget of $5 million.Now, if your budget is only 10% of that and you’ve got just one part-timer working on multiple fundraising projects at once, how can you compare your success?Realizing that research and information directed toward smaller nonprofits just didn’t exist, her studio later initiated a survey that would become the Individual Donor Benchmark Report (IDBR), answering questions similar to those she’d had herself.Now in its third year, the IDBR has become a reliable resource for smaller nonprofits (meaning those with a budget under $2 million), giving you the data you need to compare yourself to organizations with similar resources as you have. With the kinds of data contained in the IBDR, you can really see where you’re doing well and where you have opportunities for growth.

We Hold These Truths

With the data collected over the past few years, theIDBR has found some universal truths that have carried over from year to year. First, the single most important thing you can do as a small nonprofit is to make a plan. The single thing that really mattered, through all the data, was whether an organization has a fundraising plan. The plan is what ties everything together, makes the data correlate, and shows you just where your money comes from… or where it could be coming from.The second universal truth demonstrated by the IDBR is that there is a HUGE opportunity in online giving. Organizations with new online giving programs have the potential for massive, almost exponential fundraising growth, and even established programs saw 25% growth from 2013 to 2014. Online giving is one more channel through which your donors can give, and you’re missing out on that stream entirely if you’re not ready to maximize online gifts.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Understanding very well how much a difference in budget can affect a nonprofit’s fundraising ability, the IDBR offers benchmarks for organizations with varying amounts of revenue. Compare your own organization, at a glance, to small (under $200K), medium (up to $499,999), large (up to $999.999), and super (up to $2 million) organizations, with a nice “average” category included for good measure. For example, the average nonprofit raises 36% of their revenue from individual donors, but the various categories range from 25% to 57%.You can compare your numbers by total dollars raised, number of gifts, and even break things down by the issue your nonprofit seeks to address. Be reassured, though… every size of organization saw double-digit percentages in revenue growth between 2013 and 2014!The IDBR also looks at fundraising strategies and challenges, including a Fundraiser’s Wish List. Unsurprisingly, the top wish was “more help for fundraising activities,” and the number 2 item was a wish for more time to spend with donors.

It’s All in the Plan

The data expert at Third Space Studio collected the survey results from 87 different nonprofits and found that the ONLY thing that really matters is whether your organization has a fundraising plan. Everything else, no matter how well-intended, was “no better than a crap shoot” without a plan. And who wants to shoot crap, anyway?Two-thirds of the organizations polled say they have a fundraising plan, and using it at least “sometimes.” And the difference between the haves and the have-nots is significant. The IDBR found that there’s no correlation between staff time and revenue, or fundraiser salary and revenue, or number of donor meetings and revenue… unless you have a plan.It’s that plan that is key to your fundraising. The survey results show that “for every $1 more you pay your primary individual donor fundraiser, you are able to rase another $4.25.” So all you need is a plan to recoup that expense more than fourfold? Yes, please!With a plan, you can expect a full-time individual donor fundraiser to bring in about $280,000. With a plan, individual donor meetings can yield over $5,000 in increased donor revenue. With a plan, you are simply able to raise more money. So what are you waiting for? Get planning!There’s so much more in the IDBR that it might be overwhelming to try to sum up in one blog post. Check back here soon for more info on recurring giving, online giving, technology, communication, and even the people who make it all happen, or visit Third Space Studio to download your own copy of the Individual Donor Benchmark Report.Happy planning!

fundraising thank you

Your Guide to Year-End Fundraising

For any nonprofit, year-end fundraising is like the Super Bowl. Your team has put in tons of hard work throughout the season. You’re ready! You’ve practised! You’re pumped! And your generous donors are waiting for tickets to go on sale for the Big Game.And what a game it is! Over 30% of annual giving is made in the month of December, with 12% happening in the last three days of the year. That’s HUGE! And donors’ procrastination can work in your favor, because it means there’s still time for you to reach out and ask for those donations.They’re out there and ready to give… all you have to do is tell them how. And yes, you do need to tell them! There are thousands of nonprofits out there, and so many worthy causes. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make sure people know why your cause is most deserving of their charitable giving dollars.Let’s begin.

1. Have a Game Plan

Set a specific year-end fundraising goal, ideally based on both your short- and long-term needs. Decide in advance what success means to you, whether it’s a dollar amount or a number of additional donors. Share your plan with staff and volunteers early on to get everyone involved and spread out the work.To help build your plan, consider these questions:

  • What do we want to accomplish? Dollars are great and crucial to your mission, but what do you want to tell people you’ve done with their gifts? Imagine the results of your best-case scenario, and work backwards from there.
  • How do we want to reach out? Different people prefer to be contacted in different ways, and your resources are limited. Consider what the most effective communication channels will be to reach your ideal donors, and focus on those.
  • Who do we want to contact? Even skywriting only reaches a limited audience, and that’s probably not in your budget. Depending on your goal, your audience may vary; choose the folks most likely to respond to your year-end fundraising appeal and address your appeals to them.
  • What do we want them to do? Choose the one thing that you want donors to d0 right now. Do you want them to donate to a specific fund? Switch to recurring giving? Buy a particular fundraising item? Use that as the one clear call to action in each of your messages.

2. Send the Right Message

While numbers are great, you may want to save them for your annual report. Now is the time to share stories rather than statistics; people are more generous when they can relate to an individual’s story. Show potential donors what their gifts will support, and let previous donors know how their gifts have already helped. And while it’s your organization asking for donations, the message isn’t about you: tell supporters how great they are for wanting to help.

As you’re developing your story, balance that with keeping your message simple, short and sweet.

December’s busy for everyone! A single great picture can really help attract attention, and a nice big “donate” button makes it easy for donors to take the one, specific action you want.When you’re ready, don’t wait, start planting the seeds of generosity now! Updates on Facebook, Twitter, and on other social channels are immediately visible. Clean up your mailing lists, review your printed materials, write that newsletter… just because your donors procrastinate doesn’t mean you can wait until the last minute to say “me too.” Make sure you’re in donors’ thoughts when they’re ready to give; plan out a few scheduled email messages and emphasize urgency as the year’s end approaches.

3. Make Giving Easy

When donors want to give, where do they go? They look up your website! Regardless of whether they give online or off, potential supporters will likely check out your website beforehand. Are you putting your best face forward?You certainly should be keeping your home page up-to-date, of course. If your “current events” are from last summer, get in there and update things! Even if you need to do some digging to find out who can make changes to your website for you, it’s well worth the time to tidy things up for your new guests.

To encourage greater giving, make sure to feature fundraising prominently on the home page of your website.

People won’t give if they can’t find the right place easily. A nice, bright “DONATE” button near the top of your home page will ensure that everyone knows where to give, and you can link it straight to your main GiveCentral giving page or to a specific fund you’d like to highlight this season.

4. Say Thank You

…a lot.A brief “thanks” with a donation receipt is nice, but that alone won’t build the relationship you’re hoping to develop that will keep donors coming back.

That first “thank you” is not simply a courtesy, it’s your first opportunity to reinforce the great decision they’ve just made.

Following up with donors on the results of their giving is another great step on the path toward what will hopefully become a lifelong partnership. When you can show the concrete results of their gifts, donors are reassured that they’ve made a good choice and encouraged to give again.Thank yous don’t just have to be emails or letters! You can recognize donors on your website or ask their opinions about your next initiative. Invite them to give in other ways – by volunteering, by attending an event, or by telling friends about your incredible achievements. Word-of-mouth is great for giving!

So What’s Next?

It ain’t over ’til it’s… well, it’s never over. Thankfully, your mission is well worth it!

Fundraising for your organization is an ongoing task even after the year-end fundraising blitz is over, but you can make it more manageable by beginning a plan for 2016.

Break things up into more reasonable chunks if a full-year calendar is too much to tackle at once! Take a look at what worked (and what didn’t) in this round of giving, and adjust your future plans  and activities based on what you’ve learned.How can your plan become better aligned with your organization’s mission? What targets should get more attention in your next fundraising push? Where could your time, energy and budget be better spent? How will you continue to grow your list, and how can you best keep the donors you already have?What will you be doing in 2016?

Email Communication

Holiday Email Adds a Big Boost to Year-Round Growth

The GiveCentral team’s goal is to help all of our client organizations to raise more, and we see a tremendous opportunity to improve donor retention rates over traditional payment methods like cash and checks. Earlier this year, we engaged hundreds of parishes in an exercise to test the power of communication to bring back donors who have stopped giving. Using the free email communication portal available to every GiveCentral client, we were able to demonstrate the potential of sending a single message before an important holiday.In the days before Easter Sunday 2015, we helped participating parishes send a message to their online donors who had not yet signed up to make an Easter donation to their parish. Each parish used GiveCentral’s free communication portal and email templates. The simple messages encouraged recipients to find their church on GiveCentral and make a donation.comparison graph: increase in fundraising between organizations who sent email vs. those who did notParticipating parishes saw a sustained increase in giving, growing by more than 9 percent on average over the following six months. That is nearly five times faster than the parishes that did not send an email.

  • 750 new donors responded to the call to give online.
  • Participating parishes saw a 323 percent increase in online Easter donations.
  • A single parish signed up 57 new donors with one email.

Communicating regularly is one of the most effective ways to raise more for your organization, and never is that more true than ahead of major holidays like Christmas and Easter. All you have to do is ask.

Download a case study of this great success story here.

Giving Tuesday: December 1, 2015

Giving Tuesday: Giving Thanks and Giving Back

Here at GiveCentral, we are really looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday this year. It brings us all together in so many different ways with its simple focus on being thankful. Now, thanks to Giving Tuesday, which happens on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving week, there is a great focal point for expressing our thanks, and for kicking off the holiday giving season.

This global day of giving, created by 92nd Street YMCA in 2012, is in its fourth year. The growing movement brings together communities to work for a common mission to help give back, and each year, more and more organizations are joining the effort. Honestly, after the spending frenzy of Black Friday and the holiday weekend, Giving Tuesday is a bit of a needed reset for each of us!

At GiveCentral, we share the sentiment and the spirit behind Giving Tuesday, and we are going to help you and your organization take advantage of the excitement around it to rally your donors. While many of you have appeals and holiday giving programs running, Giving Tuesday can be a fun, one-off opportunity to get folks excited, and to increase giving.

If you’re wondering how to best highlight this global mission, here are a few of our tips to get you started.

  1. Key Messaging

It’s crucial to know your audience and their key values to tailor your Giving Tuesday messaging. Position Giving Tuesday as a universal day to celebrate and encourage giving, while using personal anecdotes that will resonate with your audience. The goal of your messaging should always be to effectively get your donor base to believe in your mission.

GiveCentral Best Practice Tip: Don’t be afraid to share what the donated funds will be used for. Sharing that the funds will be used towards a new playground or to fix the roof can drastically help increase funds. Donors are more likely to give when they can relate to what their funds are going toward.

  1. Communicate

Whether it’s a note in your bulletin, a handout, text message or email, be sure to maximize all of your communication platforms to share your Giving Tuesday mission. Educate your audience on what Giving Tuesday is and how they can get involved to make Giving Tuesday a success for your organization.

GiveCentral Best Practice Tip: Don’t forget to say thank you! A personalized thank you for a donation is an effective way to turn a one-time donor into a lifelong supporter. GiveCentral makes it easy for organizations by sending automatically customized thank you notes after each donation.

  1. Engage Your Resources

It takes a village! Don’t go at your campaign alone. Create a committee of individuals who are energized and excited to make Giving Tuesday a success for your organization. Leverage these individuals to be key communicators of your campaign through word of mouth, social media and more!

GiveCentral Best Practice Tip: Take advantage of the smartphone phenomenon and directly connect to your donors through GiveCentral’s Text-To-Connect platform. Texts are sent to your custom cell phone number to collect information and donations to take your Giving Tuesday campaign to the next level.

  1. Get Social

Giving Tuesday is catching momentum across the globe on social media. Jump in the conversation and share your story. Create tailored Facebook posts and Tweets to remind your followers of Giving Tuesday and your mission while gaining new followers.

GiveCentral Best Practice Tip: Create a personalized hashtag for your Giving Tuesday campaign for donors to easily tag, track and share!

With these tips, your organization will be well on its way to helping members celebrate Giving Tuesday and get into the holiday giving spirit!